The most important thing to remember when making this recipe is low, gentle, barely flickering heat. This is not a "hot" bean salad, it's a warm one, and delicate heat preserves the flavor of its ingredients. Quality herbs and olive oil also make a difference—but that low temperature at which the flavors open up without losing their most subtle qualities makes all the difference. Whenever I make it, I never let the flame get above a gentle simmer, allowing the oil, garlic, and green herbs to infuse with each other and become absorbed by the beans.
Otherwise, it couldn't be much gloriously simpler, which is often the case with the recipes of Viana La Place, who offers this recipe in her book Verdura: Vegetables Italian Style. It also tends to be the humble star of the meal, even next to grilled lamb chops or skirt steak or a fillet of salmon—all of which it pairs marvelously with. The addition of oil-cured olives is optional; sometimes I replace them with cooked shrimp to make the recipe into a one-dish meal.
- 2 14 oz cans cannellini or other white beans, rinsed and drained, about 3 cups
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
- Handful basil leaves, chopped
- 1-2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
- 4 large sage leaves, finely chopped
- salt and pepper
- Juice of 1 lemon (I often add zest as well)
- 1/2 cup good oil cured black olives (optional)
- Large handful cooked shrimp (optional)
In large sauté pan combine oil, garlic and herbs. Warm over very low heat for about 4 min, or until the garlic and herbs release their aroma.
Add the beans (and shrimp if using), salt and pepper to taste, and toss gently. Cook over low heat until the beans are warm and have absorbed the flavors of the olive oil, about 5 min.
Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice. Toss very gently, place on a serving platter, and surround with black olives.